The story of one of the most innovative companies in the world: the automobile manufacturer that makes some of the best-selling and longest-lasting cars on the road.
Superlatives aside, Honda's record speaks for itself, and International Business Times editor in chief Rothfeder (McIlhenny's Gold: How a Louisiana Family Built the Tabasco Empire, 2007, etc.) highlights the achievements of its founder, Soichiro Honda (1906-1991). In the United States, Honda remains at the pinnacle of the auto industry, with such iconic models as the Civic, Accord and Odyssey; 75 percent of the cars and trucks it manufactured over the last 25 years are still on the road. For skeptics, the author's acknowledgments and the reference section detailing his sources will be helpful. In Rothfeder's telling, Honda is a much different auto manufacturer than others. Unlike Toyota, for example, it is not organized as a top-down pyramid of control. Honda's flat-type organization encourages local inputs. In Marysville, Ohio, technician Shubho Bhattacharya's Intelligent Paint Technology reduced “energy usage in the paint shop by 25 percent” and was rapidly deployed globally to like effect. Unlike General Motors and Ford, Honda also builds its own machinery, and workers cooperate with engineers to configure production lines, as they did in Lincoln, Arkansas. There, the “line's coiled shape” helped reduce its footprint and costs while providing a flexible assembly and quality-control capability. Soichiro Honda's career as an innovator took off in the 1920s, when he patented a design for unbreakable cast-iron auto wheels, and continued through his mastery of the skills required to manufacture piston rings that could improve combustion engine performance. Since then, the company has led the way in engine development. As the founder said, “success can be achieved only through repeated failure and introspection. In fact, success represents one percent of your work, which results only from the ninety-nine percent that is called failure.”
A case study of the methods required to revive manufacturing industries.